Editorials

Read the small print when they 'streamline'

The word "streamline" is being used a lot these days in connection with government regulations.

We hear constantly about a need to streamline the permitting process to spur economic growth and add jobs in a down economy.

It's understandable because sometimes the process is flawed. And there can always be more efficient ways for the public to get permits to build something new or improve something old and worn out.

But there's a big difference between injecting common-sense simplicity and efficiency into the process and wiping out regulations.

For that reason, the word "streamline" should raise a red flag every time it is used.

In Beaufort, the City Council just voted to approve a rezoning that wipes out oversight by the Historic Review Board. That indeed streamlines the process. But more importantly, it deletes a local protection of the National Historic Landmark District that forms the body, heart and soul of Beaufort. It is a protection that has worked for decades to make Beaufort what it is -- economically, culturally and socially.

Furthermore, residents who opposed this short-sighted move were chided publicly for being "asleep at the wheel" when the city started this process. That seems a flip attitude given that the city is changing something so central to the community's core values. It screams for greater public involvement and push-back in this era of "streamlining."

The city of Beaufort also wants to streamline the development process in its new commerce park. But the suggested changes actually wipe out regulations regarding trees and setbacks that are on the books for good reason.

The Town of Hilton Head Island is under pressure to adjust its land-use regulations to make it easier for redevelopment to occur.

Gov. Nikki Haley sees no reason it should take 10 years to study deepening Charleston's port.

These are real issues that deserve public consideration. Our society would be foolish not to fix flawed processes. We would be foolish not to allow exceptions to regulations upon full public review.

But we would be much more foolish to abandon standards that have made Beaufort County distinctive.

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